Wednesday, June 10, 2009

OFFSPRING: Case studies on the Vincentian Canon, Pt 3


The Donatists held sway for almost a century over most of North Africa; they argued against the apostolic tradition by stating that the validity of a sacrament depended on the holiness of the celebrant, therefore they believed that rebaptism was necessary for those baptized by heretics. The Donatists constituted for Vincent’s Canon a challenge to the rule’s spatial spatial-geographical criterion (ubique- believed everywhere). The larger church held that any doctrine had to show concurrence with prevailing worldwide, intergenerational Christian lay consent. The universal was preferred over the particular (regional Donatism). (The Rebirth Of Orthodoxy, Thomas C. Oden, 2002)


We might be tempted to believe that once a heresy is defeated it does not reappear, but that would be incorrect. The very same heresies continue to raise their heads repeatedly throughout history. One great reason is ignorance of history, and another is ignorance of the Vincentian Canon. Most Christians do not know the difference between Donatism, Nestorianism, and Arianism. Each of these errors were so powerful that they nearly swayed the beliefs of the whole church. Again, we should acknowledge that our forefathers were not mental dwarfs, they were smart people. We must also acknowledge that the heretics always build their arguments on the bible. In this case, they could have said that there were no baptisms ever demonstrated in scripture that were carried out by heretics, and therefore any baptism done by a heretic is invalid according to the biblical witness. That is a biblical argument, isn’t it? Do you know any church that rebaptizes because they believe that the baptism of the previous church was accomplished by heretics? Well, many of them exist, and they still call themselves Christian. Yet, the universal church led by Vincent’s canon reflected upon not only that biblical argument, but also the interpretive method of that bible that they had possessed for several hundred years, and consequently they rejected Donatism. Why, because it did not pass the ubique- believed everywhere test. The Vincentian canon really does work, and those who ignore it repeat the heresies.

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